Whoops! bought more obsolete carp...

Any stories, collections or recollections of the earliest days of computers
or related projects
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Phil_G
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Whoops! bought more obsolete carp...

Post by Phil_G » 29 May 2019, 23:09

For me the nostalgia thing isnt just about model flying, I like old motorbikes and I fondly recall the earliest microprocessor days of the mid 70s when if you wanted a computer, you had to build one and program it in machine code with LEDs and binary switches. I still have my own-design SC/MP microcomputer which runs KITBUG and NIBL (National Industrial Basic Language) in its 4k ROM and 1k RAM. Over here in Blighty we were at a disadvantage until we were rescued by the likes of Nascom, Bywood, Newbear, and later Sir Clive, plus many more tiny man-in-a-shed kit producers. In America, the kit to have was the Altair 8800 but it was so ridiculously expensive that only universities, businesses and very well healed individuals could afford one. I scrapped my own much, much modified Nascom-1 some 20 years ago and have regretted it ever since - it literally went in the local dumpit site skip. I originally built the Nascom from a prototype kit for Lynx and its no exageration to say I owe my career to that board :D

Anywho, cut a long story short, I've ordered a kit for the Altairduino which is a 100% cycle-emulation of the old Altair 8800, capable of running CP/M and hence a myriad of crappy software obsolescence, with a proper printed panel which faithfully recreates the look of the old rig. I'm so looking forward to assembling it and playing the original, text-only Star Trek game!


Altairduino.jpg


I'm going to call the Altair "Ralf" :D

In the mid 80s Whiz Kids was my fave programme on TV Image

Back in the 70s I joined the recently formed 'Amateur Computer Club' where everything was homebrewed, this was long before BBCs and such, & later found the "ACC North-West" through the newsletter and used to drive over the Pennines every month to meetings held at Manchester Uni. After a year or so about 10 of us founded the ACC-Sheffield, but by then the commercial stuff was starting to push out homebrewing. I think the local group only survived a further year, then the ACC itself completely faded away from existence.

We started a homebrew computer group within BT and did very well for a few meetings, most were homebrew but one lad had a kit-built Sinclair Mk14 (which is why I built my SC/MP) but it too petered out. Things changed so quickly and electronics was expensive. I'd been running a dialup mailbox/BBS on the expanded Nascom-1 for some time by then.

At work we found some scrapped ticket machines that had a Motorola 6800 inside, I pulled the processor boards, wrote a monitor for it (a minimal operating system) and made a few development boards for the club, still have a couple here. It had a heady 1k of RAM, a hex display and hex keyboard.
Back then a monitor program was known as a 'bug' - eg Kitbug (National Semis), Nasbug (Nascom), Mikbug (Motorla), Humbug (SWTPC) etc.

By this time I'd assembled (from boards, rather than built from scratch) a CP/M machine with 180k diskettes (!) and I joined the CP/M user group which was mostly a library and disk-format-conversion service, I made a few contributions , custom BIOS stuff, bios extensions, and BBS s/w and a few Ham programs like RTTY, Morse trx, Mailbox, AX25 etc.
The CP/M User Group survived for a couple of years after the IBM PC arrived then that too folded - all the work was done by Derek Fordred and his wife, I think people took advantage of his good nature.
I still have my CP/M box (its huge) but I've no idea if it still works.

I like the idea of an accurate software emulation of the old gear, on a familiar, modern processor... its kinda like what we're doing with R/C :D

Cheers
Phil

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Wayne_H
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Re: Whoops! bought more obsolete carp...

Post by Wayne_H » 30 May 2019, 03:13

Phil, I think you may need even more " obsolete carp.... " to complement the Altair.

How about a genuine Aussie designed & kit built Microbee PC, from the mid 70's. It's been souped up to 32k (originally 8k), complete with not 1, but 2, :shock: 5.25" floppies, chrome plated grease nipples & twin overhead fox tails :lol: :roll: . While it doesn't have as many pretty red lights as the Altair, it runs cpm & has a monochrome monitor output. :P

Just think, you could be the first (& only) geek in your village to have one!! Only down side is the likely freight cost - probably need a barge & ocean going tug :( . What's GaryNB doing for the next 6 months??? :D :D
Cheers,

Wayne
Once a Retrobate, always a Retrobate............ :roll:

NeilMac
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Re: Whoops! bought more obsolete carp...

Post by NeilMac » 30 May 2019, 06:03

My first job when I left college in 1979 was as a junior customer engineer for Olivetti, I worked on Data Processing (DP) machines and later ended up a senior engineer on sci tech (early cnc) and banking systems. The first machines I worked on were the DE500 series, the simplest DE500's had 1k of memory and data output was onto data cassettes. The top of the line version had 4k of ram. Their function was just to turn paper invoices into data for larger computers to process.

I could work on them and fix them, I could never program them, but it was useful to be conversant with binary code and hexidecimal.

Here's a picture found with a google search.
olivetti_de25_s.jpg
olivetti_de25_s.jpg (9.42 KiB) Viewed 897 times
Much later I decided to teach myself morse code to get my A license, this was achieved in six weeks using a Sinclair ZX81.... which may still be in the loft somewhere.
"I'm your huckleberry, that's just my game"

Pchristy
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Re: Whoops! bought more obsolete carp...

Post by Pchristy » 01 Jun 2019, 09:17

I've still got my UK101 up in the loft!

I was taught computing at college, initially on an old IBM 1130 mainframe (Fortran IV), and then on a DEC PDP-8, running FOCAL. FOCAL was a bit like Basic, but more structured, though it didn't have any string handling capabilities.

The UK101 was an Anglicised version of the Ohio Superboard, which had taken the US by storm. It had to be built from scratch, though the supplied PCB was very good. That was a LOT of soldering! I bought the enhanced version with a whole 8K of RAM (the standard was 4K!), and later stretched it to 16K via an Elektor expansion board - all connected together with wire-wrap! It served me well, until the BBC "B" appeared!

At the time, everyone was raving about how good Microsoft Basic was (as used by the UK101, and just about everything else at the time), but BBC Basic blew Microsoft out of the water. I've not seriously used anything from Microsoft since. My home computer and laptop all run Slackware Linux.

I really ought to get the UK101 down and fire it up for old times sake.....!

:D

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Pete

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Shaun
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Re: Whoops! bought more obsolete carp...

Post by Shaun » 01 Jun 2019, 09:31

I had a UK101 Pete.. Along with the Transcendent mono synth they had to have the most soldered joints of any electronics project I ever built.
Pity I got rid of both of them..

Shaun.

NeilMac
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Re: Whoops! bought more obsolete carp...

Post by NeilMac » 01 Jun 2019, 17:03

I remember the BBC's, they could be used with 3 1/2" 'floppy' disc drives which cost an absolute bomb, we had the same drives in a number of the newer machines and they were so fiddly to try and fix that we used to bin them and just put a new drive in. I became right popular with a few of the guys at the local amateur radio club as they were also getting into computers and I used to often turn up with a couple of drives which I had either fixed or which had turned out not to be faulty when I tested them, I don't remember ever having to buy my own drinks at club meetings.

I was once asked what computer system I had at home..... I replied that I spent 8 hours a day fixing computers for a living... why on earth would I want one at home?
"I'm your huckleberry, that's just my game"

Pchristy
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Re: Whoops! bought more obsolete carp...

Post by Pchristy » 02 Jun 2019, 09:19

NeilMac wrote:
01 Jun 2019, 17:03
I was once asked what computer system I had at home..... I replied that I spent 8 hours a day fixing computers for a living... why on earth would I want one at home?
I had a similar experience, once! I was a senior engineer in the BBC's videotape department at the time, and I got stopped in the street by a young lady doing audience research. She wanted to know what I'd watched on TV the night before. "I didn't watch any TV!", I replied. "Er, OK, what did you listen to on the radio?" "I didn't listen to the radio!" "Er, OK, what did you do?" I told her I'd been busy in my workshop, which was quite true. "Why didn't you watch any TV last night?", she persisted. "Because I spend 12 hours every other day being PAID to watch TV! Why would I do it in my own time, for nothing?"

She didn't have a check-box for that on her list, and I left her looking very puzzled.....

:lol:

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Pete

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Phil_G
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Re: Whoops! bought more obsolete carp...

Post by Phil_G » 02 Jun 2019, 11:02

Exciting!


IMG_20190610_172705_466.JPG

IMG_20190610_185930_553.JPG


Pete, do you have any contacts back at the BBC archives?
I've been trying to get them to locate the Blue Peter episode where John Noakes
was flying a S/C Super 60 with an RCS Guidance System on Salisbury Plain,
he was accompanied by another flyer, I think with a reeds model but I dont remember who.
I even got the BMFA to ask on my behalf as its historically significant, probably the
first time S/C was televised. Any ideas?
Cheers
Phil

Edit: I had a flashback, I think maybe I've asked you this before.... ?

Pchristy
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Re: Whoops! bought more obsolete carp...

Post by Pchristy » 03 Jun 2019, 08:49

I left the BBC back in 1976, Phil, and although I returned there to work in news, it was only for a few years before I retired.

I'm still in touch with a lot of my colleagues from back then, but like me, all of them are now retired. I can ask around though. One of them may have some contacts still who can help.

Part of the problem is that the BBC archive is now vast, and a lot of stuff from the late 60s and early 70s got wiped, because of the high cost of videotape back then. Its highly likely that Blue Peter was not seen as worth saving, unless there was something very special in the programme.

My son appeared on it when he was quite young, flying a Shuttle in the Blue Peter Garden - and if ever you have been there, you'll appreciate how tricky that was! (Tiny space, surrounded by high trees and buildings!) Luckily I was still working in the industry at the time and managed to make a broadcast quality recording of the whole thing. Unfortunately, I don't have a broadcast machine to play it back, but I still have a VHS copy somewhere!

I'll ask around, but don't hold your breath!

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Pete

Stew
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Re: Whoops! bought more obsolete carp...

Post by Stew » 30 Jun 2019, 11:56

How is the computer build going Phil? I have been foaming at the mouth for one of these things for ages. Haven't 'pulled the trigger' yet..

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